Waiting for Otto

Why would a man sullied by Iran-contra and illegal propaganda campaigns be a Bush nominee? Good question.

If you put your finger on (e), you are as savvy as some Senate insiders. Reich would obviously need to win over Republicans for his nomination to be confirmed. But the uncompromising policy toward Cuba is steadily eroding among GOP ranks, including members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"Cuba's not a huge market. But it's a market," maintained Andy Summel, the former aide to Sen. Richard Lugar. "It's not as big a market as Iran or Iraq would be if sanctions were modified there. But it would be a market, and it would be a market that would be sustainable over time. It's geographically close. And if the country were to grow economically, it would be a growing market.

Paul Hamlyn
Miami lawyer and Bay of Pigs veteran Alfredo Duran thinks Latin America needs a Marshall Plan, not a divisive U.S. point man
Steve Satterwhite
Miami lawyer and Bay of Pigs veteran Alfredo Duran thinks Latin America needs a Marshall Plan, not a divisive U.S. point man


"We have an independent view on Cuba," Summel continued. "Lugar and I personally think we ought to be selling food and medicine there, and we ought to lift a lot of the sanctions and put the pressure on Castro, rather than letting him benefit from our sanctions. He needs them politically."

Unfortunately for Reich, Lugar isn't the only one on the GOP side of the dais who thinks this way. At least five of the nine Republican senators on the committee also have supported lifting some sanctions against Cuba.

How would Reich refute them? "Cuba's economy cannot grow as long as Castro is in power," Reich declared on his WQBA appearance. "I think the policy of the United States should be, and again I'm speaking as a private citizen, to demand that there be internal changes in Cuba before the United States changes [its embargo policy]."

Polos Opuestos host Maria Elvira Salazar noted that a Republican president, Richard Nixon, had orchestrated a historic diplomatic opening with another communist country, China. She asked Reich why he opposed the idea of this Republican president trying the same thing with Cuba.

"China isn't Cuba," he replied. "From an economic and commercial perspective, China and Cuba are two completely different countries." He then digressed into some of the capitalistic reforms, such as private businesses, that the totalitarian, one-party Asian behemoth has adopted since the Nixonian dialogue. But Reich seemed to be unaware of the paladares (private restaurants) and casas particulares (bed-and-breakfasts) that anyone who travels to, lives in, or reads about Cuba can't miss. "A Chinese person can have private property; he can have his own business," Reich maintained. "You can't do that in Cuba."

Reich was asked to reconcile the fact that many of his fellow Republicans, including Dick Cheney and John Ashcroft, support a loosening of the embargo. "I believe that the majority of North American companies know that Cuba is not a market," Reich insisted. "And frankly, that the [U.S.] Chamber of Commerce says one thing or the other isn't important because the Chamber of Commerce was against almost all of President Reagan's international economic policies. They opposed economic sanctions that Reagan imposed on the Soviet Union. They don't like economic sanctions in general."

By choosing Reich and sticking with him, Bush may have won points in South Florida, but he has lost some in Washington, especially inside his own party. "I think some [senators] are just concerned about why the president would want to choose somebody of that controversy, with that background, when it was known in advance that it would be a problematic nomination," observed Summel.

The answer to that riddle comes from the man who would be President Bush's chief diplomat in the Americas. "Cuba has an additional ingredient," Reich told WQBA's Salazar, "which is local politics."

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